by Countryside Alliance

Yesterday, 15 October, at the London Wetland Centre, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Theresa Villiers, announced the Government’s new Environment Bill.

The purpose of Environment Bill is:

  • Transform our domestic environmental governance based on environmental principles; codify a comprehensive framework for legally binding targets; and the establishment of a new Office for Environmental Protection.
  • Increase local powers to tackle sources of air pollution.
  • Improve biodiversity by working with developers.
  • Extend producer responsibility, ensure a consistent approach to recycling and introduce deposit return schemes.
  • Introduce charges for specified single use plastic items.
  • Secure long-term, resilient water and wastewater services, including through powers to direct water companies to work together to meet current and future demand.

There is much in the Bill to welcome, not least the legislation to tackle fly-tipping. Indeed, the Bill does target priorities in the countryside, such as air pollution, single use plastics and climate change.

That being said, we still have serious concerns that the Government has not taken notice of advice from ourselves, other stakeholders, the EFRA Committee concerning the new body to be called the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).

The OEP’s is designed to protect and improve the natural environment. However, the OEP may be hampered in its effectiveness because, as drafted, the legislation does not give it sufficient independence to scrutinise the Government or adequate powers of enforcement. It does not represent an equivalent enforcement regime as under current EU arrangements and will not be the world leading environmental body which the Government claims. 

The Bill is in its early stages and the Countryside Alliance will monitor its progression through the House of Commons and work with the Government and parliamentarians to ensure the Bill is fit for purpose and the OEP is the body which the Government says it wants.

Sarah Lee, Head of Policy for Countryside Alliance said:

‘I am delighted that the Government will use this Bill to tackle fly-tipping. Fly-tipping is causing chaos in the countryside, affecting 67% of farmers and costing them £47m every year.

‘Fly-tipping is the only crime where victims have the potential to pay the cost – twice! Once for storing illegal waste through no fault of their own and second for disposing of it. Efforts by the Government to see an end to fly-tipping must be applauded.

‘There are concerns that, as drafted, the legislation may not fulfil its aims, especially around the OEP. We will therefore continue to work hard to see concerns are taken notice of and we have a Bill that works.’ 

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